Yes, I love airports.   Since I spend a lot of time in airports, I seek to enjoy them.  Airports are a micro culture of fascinating human behavior that demonstrates our need for connection.


In 2009, I traveled to 10 countries plus a few trips within my home country of Canada.  In every airport I observed the standard connection through greeting and goodbye rituals.  But some were more heart-rending than others.   Family members are often met upon arrival with much excitement and emotion after long and even short absences; and of course sad farewells often indicate that much time will elapse before friends and family will lay eyes on one another again.

In some airports, travelers are greeted by family members and friends with balloons, banners, and loved ones jumping up and down. It seems the longer someone has been away, the more balloons and banners that appear.   All are an effort to show how excited we are to see the person, as if telling them how much they were missed and loved is not enough.

Affection varies from country to country when saying welcome or goodbye.   I witnessed a young teenager in Spain hold his father long and hard at the Pamplona airport and then they kissed each other three times on the cheek before letting go.   Recently while at the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan, another father and son only gave a long gaze to one another and a bow but their affection and non-verbal caring I believe was just as deep.

Due to my many frequent flyer points, I am able to enter business lounges priot to departure. When you enter, you first have to prove that you are eligible to be there by showing one of the magic frequent flyer cards that gives you this privilege.  Once you pass the entry point, it is like entering an adult cyber classroom.

My guess is that 60% of the patrons are facing intently into their laptop computers writing emails; 10% are checking their Blackberries or iPhones while another 10% are having the old fashioned experience of reading the newspaper or a book while others are reading on their Kindles.  Maybe, just maybe, 20% are actually having a face to face conversation with another.

Some of these face to face connections are more tender than others.  On a recent professional trip, I was in the Narita airport in Tokyo, Japan.   I witnessed a son (about 40ish) feeding his elderly father soup in such a tender and kind manner.  The elderly Father was in a wheelchair and not able to feed himself.  I wondered where they might be headed and why?    Was he being moved to another city to live with a daughter or son as is typical in Asian culture?   It was a touching moment of family drama.
Another thing I love about airports is that they have become mini shopping malls.  You can obtain any and all things that you may have forgotten that can quickly be replaced.  There is everything from toothpaste to Tylenol, and purses to perfume.  And of course there are always the last minute “authentic” souvenirs in every airport.
Oh and the food connections are to numerous to list.  But a few are the Seafood Bar at the Heathrow Airport, London, England, Terminal 3.  In Hong Kong, the business lounge has wonderful dim sum and in Stockholm, Sweden, I crave the bread and cheese.   In Doha, Qatar, I relished the little desserts laden with pistachios.

The magazine and bookstores are another favorite airport connection of mine!    But why does the daily newspaper seem so much more interesting and essential when in an airport?   And why does the latest issue of MacWorld, Time magazine or even O seem so compelling as if as if it is going to leave the planet and this could be the last copy ever.  I even find myself looking at magazines in languages I cannot understand.

Despite all these observations, I still notice there are some airport travelers who wish to remain disconnected from electronics or their traveling companions for awhile and instead connect with their new book, daily newspaper or just stare into space or sleep while waiting for their flight to depart.

Yes, the next time you are in an airport, savor the family and friendship connections along with digital, reading, and food connections.  Embrace airports as an opportunity to watch and enjoy any and all aspects of our involuntary human need for connection (love actually)!!

What caught your attention the last time you were in an airport?
Lorraine